Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
I Did It, or He Did It?(Adapted from Ha'aros by Mori v'Rabi Rav Zeidel Epstein, zt"l)
And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, "Send men, that they may spy the land of Canaan, which I give to the people of Israel.… And Moshe sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, Go up this way southward, and go up into the mountain; And see the land, what it is; and the people who live in it, whether they are strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they live in, whether it is good or bad; and what cities they are that they live in, whether in tents, or in fortresses; And what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is wood in it, or not. And be you of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.
Rashi explains that Hashem had not commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to send the spies (meraglim). Rather, He was giving Moshe permission to send them if he wanted. So it we have to understand what was Moshe's plan in giving them such detailed instructions? He told them exactly what to look for. And what would happen if they don't find what he told them to look for? What was he going to do with this information?
Furthermore, the Ramban comments that in Devorim (1:23) the p'sukim describe how the people came with the plan to send spies and Moshe Rabbeinu was pleased with the idea. So if the people were wrong in sending the spies, does that mean that Moshe Rabbeinu was also wrong, chas v'shalom!
The Ramban answers that it was never Moshe Rabbeinu's intention to question the quality of the land. Rather he was following a hallowed rule of hashgacha pratis: do not rely on a miracle. We must believe from the bottom of our souls that everything is directed by Hashem Yisborach's fine supervision; and yet at the same time act within the confines of nature. Therefore Moshe was following the norms of battle. First send out spies to reconnoiter in order to make a battle strategy. This was exactly Moshe and Yehoshua's policy later on as they prepared to enter the land. They sent out spies again. They did not rely on miracles.
Therefore Moshe Rabbeinu was sending the meraglim to determine from which direction they should attack. Also he wanted to ascertain the strength of the defenders in order to know which men to send to battle. When he instructed them to bring back the fruit, it was to encourage everyone by showing how wonderful the land was. He never had any doubt whatsoever in Hashem's promise that it was a land flowing with milk and honey. The spies' transgression was that they went to see for themselves if Hashem's promise was really true. They had doubts. After seeing so many miracles they should have believed absolutely in Hashem's promise.
We say in Shemone Esre, "and on Your miracles that are with us every day." What miracles every day? When was the last time you saw a miracle? Rather the tefilla is telling us that the entire Creation is really just miracles upon miracles. There are two types of miracles: open miracles, and hidden miracles. What appears to us as Nature is in fact entirely a miracle. Hashem renews this miracle every day. We say in Tefilla, "Who continuously renews Creation every day." Every day Hashem "forms light and creates darkness." We are told by the scientists that darkness is merely the absence of light. Chazal tell us that darkness is actually a creation. Everything is really light. The whole universe is full of the Divine light of miracles. Hashem had to create darkness to blind us from seeing the miracles and thus giving us free will. This is called hidden miracles.
The Ramban (in his introduction to his commentary on Iyov) elaborates that from Hakadosh Baruch Hu's standpoint there is no difference between the normal running of the Universe and the Splitting of the Sea, or the Mann, or the 10 plagues. The gemara (Taanis 25a) describes how the daughter of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa came in to her father one erev Shabbos totally distraught that she had mistakenly put vinegar in the Shabbos licht (candles) instead of oil and she didn't have time to change them. Her saintly father answered her, "The One Who said that oil should light, can say that vinegar can light!" And so it was, they lit the entire Shabbos! R. Chanina ben Dosa lived with the deep understanding (it was so strong he actually felt it) that oil lights only because Hashem commanded it to light. Because he lived in a world of miracles, he received miracles.
This is Man's job in this world: to put a little bit of thought into recognizing the miracles that surround him in Creation, including himself. This way he will come to the tangible feeling that Hashem controls everything.
This is not an easy task. We wander around this world and see everything which appears totally random. If we ask ourselves, do we believe in Hashem, of course we do. But we don't think. It is very "natural" that everything appears as a series of random occurrences. But with a little thought one can discern a very remarkable hashgacha pratis.
We are obligated to act within nature and make an effort - hishtadlus. However, this is good only if we remember that this is merely an effort and not a result. We perform hishtadlus because that is the will of the Ribono Shel Olam. The result is in His hands. A person thinks that he has to make money. And when he actually makes money he is liable to think that his efforts paid off and he made money. The trick is to realize that Hashem gave him the right ideas which make money: what to buy, what not, when, how, etc. One must remember that Hashem is with him even in his hishtadlus. The person is not the brilliant businessman with the genius strategies; Hashem is. Some commentaries say that even regarding spiritual matters man's job is merely to choose the right thing. Whether it is successful or not is a Heavenly gift.
If we would live with the understanding that Hakadosh Baruch Hu watches over us, and gives us the right ideas, at the right time, and every time, then our entire life would be different. If the one who attributes his success to his sharp mind would only look into the matter, he would see he has strayed from pure emuna and has in some slight way made himself equal to Hashem.
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood). You can access Rav Parkoff's Chizuk Sheets online:
If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff, or change your subscription, please contact: rabbi.e.parkoff@gmail
Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff: 732-325-1257
Rabbi Dovid Moshe Stern: 718-360-4674
Shema Yisrael Torah Network